Information on Hound's-tongue

Common Name: Hound's-tongue
Scientific Name: Cynoglossum officinale
Irish Name: Teanga chon
Family Group: Boraginaceae.
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Hound's-tongue is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


Not the sort of wildflower that's threatened with overpicking, this is an upright, greyish and downy plant which grows to about 65cm high.  A biennial, it overwinters as a rosette during its first year.  In its second year, it has maroon 5-petalled funnel-shaped flowers (5-7mm across) which are borne in clusters on arching stalks, giving the flowerheads a drooping aspect. These bloom from June to August.  The lanceolate, oblong leaves are roughly hairy, the lower leaves being stalked. The distinctive fruits consist of groups of four flattened bristly nutlets, well designed to transfer to animal fur or clothing thus helping dissemination. This is a native plant which is usually found growing on dry grassy land, near the coast.  It is mostly confined to eastern parts of Ireland and it belongs to the family Boraginaceae.  

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this plant by a fellow member of the Wexford Naturalists' Field Club*, Janet Whelehan, in June 2009.  This was near Arklow, Co Wicklow and the photographs were also taken at that time. 

 *www.wexfordnaturalists.com

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Hound's-tongue
Hound's-tongue

This species is classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016.

Hound's-tongue contains a poison to which cattle and horses are susceptible.  This poison accumulates in the liver and can cause irreversible liver failure.  The poison is toxic when the animals eat the dried plant mixed in with their hay.  For this reason it is termed a Noxious weed in some countries. 

Most of the books I have consulted with regard to Hound's-tongue say that there is a distinct smell of mice from this plant.  I can only relay the information as I can't really say I know what mice smell like. 

In Culpeper's Complete Herbal, the apothecary and herbalist wrote that 'the distilled water of the herbs and roots is very good … for it heals all manner of wounds and punctures, and those foul ulcers that arise by the French pox'.  He also wrote that Mizaldus – 16th c. astrologer and physician – wrote 'that the leaves laid under the feet, will keep the dogs from barking at you.'